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The Economic Role of the Jewish Community in Afghanistan (1880-1950)

The Economic Role of the Jewish Community in Afghanistan (1880-1950)

Afghan Studies Lecture by Sara Koplik, Jewish Federation of New Mexico

Wednesday, October 19, 2016
4:00 PM - 5:30 PM
6275 Bunche Hall

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Sara Koplik’s lecture will examine the economic role of the Jewish community in Afghanistan, particularly from the late 19th to middle 20th century. This small community was founded and shaped upon the exigencies of trade, especially the international market in textiles, carpets and karakul (Persian lamb) fur. Ties to distant places were formed through commerce. Trade determined where settlements were established, how connections were formed with other minority groups, the way family life was conducted, and the unusual role of women.

The challenges of engaging in commercial activity in Afghanistan are brought into relief through the case study of the Jewish community. It faced nativist restrictions by the early 1930s, when the government sought to eliminate non-Pashtun participation in export trade, and established a series of monopolies which wrought havoc upon Afghanistan's fragile economy. An examination of the monopolization system and the role of the Ministry of National Economy will be discussed, highlighting the deleterious impact to the Jewish community which was barred from engaging in most commercial activities and from residing in the northern tier of the country.

Sara Koplik received her doctorate from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London in Middle Eastern history. She recently published A Political and Economic History of the Jews of Afghanistan, and has contributed articles to the Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World. She is employed by the Jewish Federation of New Mexico in Albuquerque.

This event is presented in collaboration with the Center for Near Eastern Studies.

Photo credit: Osnat Gad, "Wedding in Kabul, September 3, 1940" (used with permission)

Sponsor(s): Program on Central Asia